City considering fining Brumfield School Apartments

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 3, 2010

NATCHEZ — Between the stuffy rooms and mildewed walls, day-to-day living at Brumfield School Apartments is far from ideal. Just ask Dan Gaddis.

Gaddis, 59, lives on the third floor of the low income housing building perched on a hill facing St. Catherine Street.

Gaddis’ air conditioning unit went on the fritz in May, and the unit was repaired this week, but not before Gaddis collapsed on two separate occasions in his bedroom from heat exhaustion.

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“It was a month and two days,” Gaddis said of the time it took to repair his air conditioner. “The average temperature in here was between 90 and 94 degrees.”

One of Gaddis’ emergency room statements from Natchez Regional Medical Center suggests he “drink more fluids and go buy a small air conditioning unit for bedroom.”

City of Natchez Code Enforcement Officer Willie B. Jones told Gaddis’ story during the June 22 regular meeting of the Natchez Board of Aldermen. Jones said for far too long the city has tolerated empty promises made by Brumfield owner Stanford Management.

Stanford Management, a private full-service property management firm, oversees 2,000 units located throughout Maine, Pennsylvania, Mississippi and Connecticut. The firm owns two properties in Natchez — Brumfield and Oak Tower Apartments.

Jones, Mayor Jake Middleton, Alderman Ernest “Tony” Fields and City Attorney Everett Sanders recently met with Stanford Management representatives and asked them to repair the entire building’s air conditioning unit, secure entrances and exits, and install fencing around an electrical panel outside the building by June 30. None of those requests were fulfilled, Fields said.

“From what I’m seeing, (Stanford Management) has burned a lot of bridges,” Fields said. “A lot of businesses or maintenance companies around here don’t want to deal with them because they owe them money or they’re late paying. That’s part of the reason things are slow to get done over there.”

Brumfield is a part of Fields’ ward — Ward 4. Fields said problems at Brumfield extend beyond what was discussed at the aldermen meeting.

“There’s a lot of roof damage, a lot of the rooms have water damage and this goes back to hurricanes Katrina and Gustav,” Fields said. “A lot of (the apartments) are really unlivable.

“A lot of people hang out over there and are not tenants. Some of the residents over there have had their doors kicked in, and the side doors and exit doors are open all the time.”

Jones suggested the city begin fining Stanford Management before matters get worse.

“We don’t need to be giving them more extensions. We need to start putting fines on these people,” Jones said. “If we start fining them $1,000 a day, they’re still lucky we’re not fining them more for the problems over there.”

Fields agreed fining Stanford Management appears to be next logical step in addressing Brumfield’s problems.

“The tenants may have to come up with maybe $100 a month (for rent), so for the most part (Stanford Management) is getting their money,” Fields said. “They’re not doing anything for the tenants, nor are they doing anything to keep up the building.”

Gaddis said he pays $147 per month for his one-bedroom apartment. Despite his low rent, Gaddis said he and his neighbors still deserve prompt service.

“It’s just a bad situation over here … a bad situation,” Gaddis said.

Repeated attempts to reach Brumfield manager Kenrick Fells this week were unsuccessful.